Sunday, February 22, 2009

About my faith, part one

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about a service that I had attended at my church. Since then I've received a few questions about my faith, and I hope that I can answer most of them in this post.

I attend a Unitarian Universalist church. The history of the Unitarian Universalist movement is quite complicated for me to explain, and I am still learning a lot about it. If you click here, you'll go to the website of the Unitarian Universalist Association. If you click on the "About Us" tab at the top of the page, you can learn a little more about the history. It also has a directory of all of the UU churches in the United States, if you're interested in finding one in your area. I'll put the link to the UUA under my "Linky Love" section if you ever wish to go back to it someday.

Unitarian Universalism is a very small religion; as of 2007, there were roughly 163,000 practicing members across the U.S. That's a number that hasn't increased since the Unitarians and the Universalists merged in 1961.

Yes, there is a difference between the Unitarians and the Universalists. Unitarianism was founded upon the belief that God is only one being, as opposed to the Trinity (that is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). In other words, it's a monotheistic faith. Most people, however, in the UU church, have moved away from this philosophy.

It's kind of hard for me to condense the history of Unitarianism into one blog post without risking plagarism, so click here for the Wikipedia article. (NOTE: I know I often sarcastically refer to Wikipedia as "that bastion of journalistic integrity", but there is a really good article here about the Unitarians. Not everything on Wikipedia is badly written!)

According to this Wikipedia article, Universalist philosophy holds that "all persons and creatures are related to God or the Divine and will be reconciled to God. A church or community that calls itself Universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions and accept other religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine. For example monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam still claim a universal value of their doctrine and moral principles because they feel they are inclusive.[1]
A belief in one common truth is also another important tenet. The living truth is seen as more far-reaching than national, cultural, or religious boundaries.[2]"

Finally, this Wikipedia article really delves into the history of Unitarian Universalism. Click on it if you want to find out even more!

Not many people are born into Unitarian Universalism. Most UUs come from other religious backgrounds. For example, about two-thirds of the members of my church are former Catholics. I am one of them. I was born and raised Catholic, attended Catholic high school, and went to a Catholic university and grad school. I was a Eucharistic Minister, a retreat leader, and campaigned for many social justice causes. I was really into it, especially in college, when there were so many opportunities to get involved, and more importantly, question everything.

I attended a Jesuit college, Fairfield University, and was really active in Campus Ministry. The staff of Campus Ministry really knew how to talk to college students, and provided opportunities for everyone to get involved in such things as mission trips, community service projects, and serving our fellow campus residents. I loved every minute of it. It was an important step in my faith journey, one that shapes my beliefs to this day.

Then I graduated college, and tried shopping around for a church that I would fall in love with. I didn't find one. I was very spoiled by the Fairfield experience. I missed the personalized attention, the close relationships I formed (many of which last to this day), and the fulfillment I got whenever I distributed Communion or was involved in a service project. All of the churches I attended were the same, and I never got a sense of fulfillment from any of them.

The churches I went to all had the same things in common. No one in the congregation talked to each other before the services started, no "Hello, how's it going" type small-talk catch up. Everyone sat in the pews, staring ahead at the altar, dutifully following the day's Bible readings in their missals, and dutifully singing the songs in the hymnal. (Most of the songs were performed like durges). Almost everyone would go up to receive Communion and return to their seats silently, then kneel in prayer.

I quickly became accustomed to sitting in the very back pew, not saying anything to anyone, and only acknowledging the presence of others during the Kiss of Peace.

I was miserable.

And my spirit, my faith, was slowly shrinking, shriveling up, like a raisin that was left out too long in the sun.



Mammatalk said...

Great post. I attended this church once when I was in a bit of a church hopping, "What religion should I be and are there any cute men here?" stage. I was impressed. Good for you to find a place where you can grow. Thanks for sharing.

Jodi said...

Excellent post! Very interesting. You sounded a lot like me. I went to Catholic school my entire 'career'. I was a Eucharistic Minister in my parish as well. I am what you call a backslider at the present moment. I believe in the God and Jesus but still as a cradle Catholic 36yrs later, don't understand the Holy Spirit. I was a devout member of my parish..going every week and Holy Day of Obligation, etc up until this past summer. Something changed. I don't know quite what it was or is. My hubby and I were the youngest people going to Mass. No one talked to each other. Then the part that used to annoy me to no end was the fact that is seemed like the priest who happened to be the pastor of the parish as well would talk like Speedy Gonzalez. It was like a rush to get out of there. The solemnity was missing. So, I literally stopped going. I left my Eucharistic Ministry behind which I feel bad about but I couldn't do it anymore there. I saw the rush of people come up and just come and receive then walk out before the recessional hymn. It drove me insane.

But I feel lost right now because I do believe in God & Jesus...I love the Saints, the Eucharist. Where do I go from here?

Anonymous said...

I attended church as a child, sort of forced into religion. Stopped going once I was early teens. Later teens I chose to get back into religion and loved it because it was a choice and my own doing. I was very faithful. We had morning prayers at work in my early 20's and everything. the past 5 years my faith has drastically declined, if not completely disappeared. I just have a hard time realizing what His plan is for my life. It just doesn't seem fair. I endured SO MUCH as a child (sexually abused by family members from birth through age 19 when I moved out, then was in an abusive relationship) and I keep thinking 'Haven't I gone through enough?' 'Why are you now taking my babies from me too?'
I'm just wondering when my time will come and in the meantime my faith has dissolved....

Mel said...

Wow! That was really, really interesting and well written. I can't wait to read part 2!

Vickie said...

Interesting post. Right now I do go to church, but so my kids can be raised catholic. It is more doing it for the family. My faith is still a little rocky since the death of my father.

I thought it was getting better, but I had a little bit of a falling out with the priest at our church and the bitterness built up again. He probably forgot, but I never will. Don't make a pregnant woman cry and then say she is hormonal!